Telehealth Explained

By now, many people have heard about Telehealth, but that doesn’t mean they feel confident enough to use it. Yet Telehealth is so convenient and easy, you don’t even need a computer to have that virtual appointment.

In this podcast, Debra Roy, a MarinHealth Medical Network Practice Manager, explains how you can schedule that doctor’s appointment you need, even in a pandemic. She also addresses ease of use, privacy, and security concerns, and when an in-person appointment becomes necessary.
Telehealth Explained
Debra Roy
Debra Roy graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Nutrition. She began her career in Medicine doing HIV and nutrition research with Dr. Marcus Conant in San Francisco. As her study ended she transitioned into Medical Practice management. In the last 30 years Debra has managed a wide range of medical offices. She currently manages MarinHealth Critical Care and Pulmonology | A UCSF Health Clinic, MarinHealth Infectious Disease | A UCSF Health Clinic, and MarinHealth Primary Care | A UCSF Health Clinic. Debra loves being an active part of the patient care team by helping to create a safe, warm and welcoming environment for patients, staff and providers. The office operates on three principles – we will focus on the patient, we’ll fully support our providers as they practice medicine and team work enhances every aspect of the care experience.

Bill Klaproth (Host): We’ve been hearing a lot about Telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic so what is it? How do you use it? Is it covered by insurance? What can and what can’t you do virtually? Let’s find out with Debra Roy, Practice Manager at MarinHealth. This is the Healing Podcast from MarinHealth. I’m Bill Klaproth. Debra, thank you so much for your time. So, we’re heard a lot about Telehealth lately. Can you explain it to us? What is Telehealth?

Debra Roy (Guest): Of course. I’d be happy to. Thanks for having me today. Telehealth is a modality that is using different types of technology – it can be anything from your telephone to your cell phone to a tablet or a computer to see patients in a remote way. So, it’s a different way for us to connect with our patients.

Host: So, how does someone go about using Telehealth?

Debra: Well patients call into the office for a variety of medical concerns. The front office then helps them ascertain is it better for them to be seen in person or is it better for a Telehealth visit. Of course in the age of COVID, we’ve been doing a lot of Telehealth medicine right now. Basically we schedule an appointment for the patient and then get them connected to the physician so that they can have a face to face conversation about their medical concerns.

Host: And then when it comes time to connect, how do people do that and what platforms do you use, and some people may want to know is this secure?

Debra: So, it is a secure platform. We work with our partners at UCSF and use a special instance of Zoom that they’ve developed that is specially encrypted for medical conversations. So, the whole thing you may have seen in the news about Zoom bombing isn’t something that happens with us because this is a totally encrypted and secure network. I know that’s very important to our patients. Usually what happens before a Telehealth visit is the patient will first hear from the doctor’s Medical Assistant. So, we’ll give you a call. We want to ask you a little bit about your health history, the medications you’re taking. If you have got a blood pressure cuff at home or a thermometer, we might ask you to take your blood pressure or your temperature. Just as in a regular face to face visit, what we try to do is have the patient be comfortable and completely prepared to see the physician prior to the doctor actually coming into what we call the Zoom room where the patient and the physician will interact. So, zoom is the regular platform. Patients use a variety of devices to connect. So, we’ve had really great luck with people using their cell phones, their desktop or laptop computers and even a lot of tablets work really well for these applications.

Host: So, Telehealth while very convenient, doesn’t replace certain situations where you have to see the doctor.

Debra: There are lots of different medical conditions that really cannot be cared for via a video visit. There are certain concerns that are serious where a face to face visit with a physician is really and truly needed. On the flip side, there are lots of things that we found that we can help patients with via Telehealth medicine and so, we’re excited to add that into our toolbox. It’s like another tool that the physician can use to interact with their patients.

Host: And someone can use this to see their Primary Care physician or a specialist?

Debra: Absolutely. Yes, MarinHealth specialists as well as our Primary Care people are ready to go. We’re completely set up and all of the different clinical specialties are now offering video visits.

Host: Okay, so that’s good. You can see your Primary Care physician or a specialist using Telehealth. Can you give us more information on what you can and can’t do virtually?

Debra: Sure, of course. For example, if a patient calls in and they’ve got chest pain or they’ve got abdominal pain, they have something going on that the doctor actually may need to do a physical exam, palpate their abdomen, listen to their heart, listen to their lungs; those kinds of things are going to need to be done in person. The simple things like medication refills, provided the patient has had appropriate laboratory studies done and they were done within the right amount of time; a lot of times a physician can now do those over the phone. One of the great things about video visits is that when we look at a patient during a video visit, sometimes that provider just won’t like the way they look and they’ll say, gosh this patient is really sicker than I thought, and I may need to bring them in to the office. And we’ve actually had that happen a few times where somebody just did not look right to the doctor, the doctor brought them in and sure enough, we tested them for influenza, and they had influenza and needed medication. So, there are lots of different times when video visits will work and they’re fantastic and then there are going to be times in the middle of a video visit where a doctor might just go, no, I need to see you in person and then there are going to be plenty of times when video visits are fantastic for doing the more routine kinds of things that a physician needs to accomplish with a patient.

Host: So, then the next question is, is this covered by insurance and it sounds like there’s good news as most insurance companies have approved Telehealth visits. Is that correct?

Debra: Yes. It has recently been approved by most insurances. It’s kind of a sunny side of the COVID pandemic if there even possibly could be one in that insurers are starting to say patients need this, patients need the flexibility. We have lots of patients sometimes who are elderly or too ill to get into an office or it would be helpful for them and their caregiver to have a visit together. And insurance companies have started to recognize this so a great way of keeping our patients safe in this time is to do these video visits and insurers are starting to cover them. Medicare in particular has been great about covering them. Other insurers have followed suit and then just most recently, insurance companies have recognized the difficulty for some patients of being able to connect via video and so they have started to actually allow patients to connect via telephone and for the doctor to actually hold a visit via telephone and be paid for that visit as well. There are lots of different modalities now that we didn’t have before in terms of helping our patients remotely.

Host: So, Debra, do you think Telehealth is here to stay? Do you think many or most physicians will continue to practice medicine and see their patients this way?

Debra: Yes, I’m actually very excited about this. And I manage in three clinical specialties. I have Primary Care, Infectious Disease and Critical Care Pulmonology. And all of the physicians and nurse practitioners and physicians assistants in our various offices have found that there are patients that are perfect for video visits and Telemedicine and so we hope that this is just going to be one more tool that we’ll continue to use to connect and communicate with our patients in the future.

Host: So, then do most of MarinHealth’s medical network do Telehealth appointments now?

Debra: Yes, actually all of our offices have been able to offer various kinds of Telehealth appointments and video visit appointments and telephone appointments. So, yea, everybody in the network is working on this now.

Host: Well that is really good to hear. And thank you for explaining Telehealth to us Debra. Thanks again, we really appreciate it.

Debra: Thanks so much for having me. We’re really excited at MarinHealth about this new tool and using it to help and connect with our patients.

Host: Very well said. That is Debra Roy. And for more information, please visit And if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is The Healing Podcast brought to you by MarinHealth. I’m Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.